Academic Advising Task Force

Summary

Purpose

The Academic Advising Task Force initially met on July 17, 2007 and received its charge on that day from Dr. Carl Lovitt and Dr. Margaret Toston. The focus of the task force was to review the current state of student academic advising, and find ways to improve the process, more specifically:

1.      Establish the major goals and objectives for academic advising at CCSU in a clearly written mission statement. This should include the enhancement of student learning and student development in the overall educational experience.

2.      Define the needs of each student population group (full-time, transfer, first-year, underprepared, students in transition, etc) and how they would best be served by academic advising.

3.      Review programs that are most effective currently at CCSU.

4.      Create a definition for academic advising at CCSU that is compatible with the strategic plan or overall mission of the institution. Include relevant and desirable student learning and development outcomes.

5.      Review the support and commitment to academic advising by the administrative branch and what resources may be needed

6.      Develop the specific responsibilities of the academic advisors and advisees as both must assume shared responsibility in the process

7.      Review and establish a recommendation for a model for an advising center that would include both structural and functional components to best meet the above findings. Investigate centralized, decentralized, split and/or other models.

8.      Determine whether the advising center should report to Student Affairs or Academic Affairs.

9.      Describe the relationship of the Advising Center with the four schools of CCSU.

10.  Develop plan for the assignment, training, evaluation and possible stipends or incentives for academic advisors.

11.  Determine additional resources that would be needed.

Members

The membership of the task force was made up of faculty, staff and students from various areas of the University. The following persons were asked to serve:

Joseph Paige – Co-Chair Academic Affairs

Jane Higgins – Co-Chair Student Affairs

Aram Ayalon Teacher Education

Kathleen Bantley Criminology and Criminal Justice

Mary Pat Bigley School of Education

Sharon Braverman School of Business

Pat Deloy Career Services

Justine Gamache Advising

Myrna Garcia-Bowen Academic Articulations and Partnerships

Ramon Hernandez Student Affairs

Elizabeth Hicks Advising

Mary Horan Arts and Sciences

Montez Johnson Advising

James Mulrooney Biomolecular Sciences

Olusegun Odesina Engineering and Technology

Kevin Oliva Center for Student Athletes

Olga Petkova Management Info Systems

Ken Poppe Career Services

Awilda Reasco Pre-Collegiate and Access Services

Janice Reska Advising

Elizabeth Torres Student

Procedures

The task force began by discussing the meaning of advising at CCSU as well as the current process of advising that is practiced here for undergraduate students. The group decided that the multi-level needs of the undergraduate students were so dissimilar from post baccalaureate students that graduate advising would require a separate review process. It was apparent that there was a lot of overlap in how undergraduate students are served and also in how certain segments of students may not receive equal attention. The task force was asked by chairs Paige and Higgins of past committees, reports and surveys that were conducted in relation to advising. It was reported that some of the past work and proposals done were from NEASC, Noel-Levitz and ACE, as well as by committees in this institution. Several members said that many suggestions were made to the administration but nothing was ever put into place. Paige asked to review copies of any past proposals and plans. Paige received several copies of past work done in advising dating back to the early 1990’s. He created a matrix to align segments from each body of work to the eleven objectives mentioned above to note what past work was reviewed, discussed and implemented. This was offered as a vehicle to help drive the conversation and to keep the task force focused on the charge.

Goal, Objectives and Mission

Each member of the task force was given an assignment after several meetings of lengthy discussions as to what the vision of academic advising was to be, and to list all the goals that students should gain from their advising experience at CCSU. Members discussed the needs of each student group and for students at each of their four years at the University. At a subsequent meeting all entries were presented and discussed. Another assignment was given to review and rank each of the entries presented in order of importance. One member compiled the information and gave a breakdown of the results. The task force then discussed and agreed that the goals of undergraduate academic advising at CCSU would be the following:

1.      Familiarize students with university resources

2.      Introduce students to the general educational curriculum requirements

3.      Interpret academic requirements and select appropriate courses

4.      Help students understand university policy

5.      Develop goal-orientated educational plans

6.      Evaluate & assist student progress toward career, life goals and degree completion

The task force spent a lengthy amount of time defining the objectives and the student learning outcomes that students would demonstrate, know value and ultimately do, to confirm that students attained the six goals mentioned above. It is the understanding of the task force, that advising is holistic in the university experience and occurs not only during the face to face advising session with the assigned faculty but in several areas, such as new and transfer student orientations, First-Year Experience initiatives, university workshops and seminars, etc. In changing the paradigm on the delivery of the objectives associated with the academic advising goals, a comprehensive chart, designed for our use by task force member Janice Reska, follows a student through his/her years and contacts at CCSU and how, when and where the objectives are delivered and met and the learning outcomes achieved. The chart will be forwarded at the request of the faculty senate, but please note, the chart will be a work in progress as stakeholders continue to contribute to its evolution.

With the goals and objectives defined, a university mission statement on academic advising could now be considered and drafted. The task force discussed and reviewed mission statements from various programs at universities across the country. The task force members were asked to join with other members to develop drafts of statements that the entire group could discuss and possibly adopt. The following statement was submitted by task force members Mary Pat Bigley, James Mulrooney and Olusegun Odesina. It was reviewed and approved by the task force, as it clearly defines and correlates advising with the overall mission of CCSU.

“Academic Advising at Central Connecticut State University is a developmental process which assists students in the realization of their career and life goals. It is ongoing and multifaceted. Academic advising includes;

·         Familiarization with institutional policies, procedures, campus resources and services

·         Familiarization with the general education curriculum, and major and minor program requirements

·         Development and clarification of short and long term goals

·         Development of an educational plan consistent with those goals

Academic advising empowers students to realize their maximum educational potential through critical thinking and good decision making.”

 

Model for Delivery

The committee reviewed and discussed various models of the delivery of advising services. The committee utilized NACADA resources for clarification, definition and examples. The current model used at the university is a “split’ model. For several meetings we considered the needs of each population of students and the service and process that they currently receive. We intensely reviewed and questioned the primary persons responsible for advising at each of the four schools, faculty advisors, as well as members of the advising center that were assigned to the task force, so that a clear and open discussion on the perceptions, goals, procedures and outcomes that are expected from students in each of these areas. We also discussed what relationship or ties that the “Advising Center” would have with the schools. Under the current structure of the Advising Center there is an apparent disconnect between the staff and the faculty advisors, and to various degrees, a lack of respect and understanding for how students are served.

Advising Center

The task force unanimously recommends the development of an “Academic and Career Planning Center” (ACP, yet to be officially named), that will be an integration of the Advising Center and the Career Services Center. The task force reviewed a proposal submitted previously by task force members Patricia DeLoy, Kenneth Poppe and others that provided a relative mission and outline. Combining these units will maximize communication, shared traffic and marketing and provide a higher level of convenience and consistency for students. The task force also unanimously recommends that the center be aligned under Academic Affairs. The ACP will provide academic support and advising for Central Connecticut State University students who are undecided about a program of study, taking developmental courses, in transition as a result of changing a major or have newly transferred into CCSU and have not declared a major. The center will also assist students and alumni with developing their career planning and job search needs. The center's staff is committed to providing a comprehensive service that moves a student along a continuum of receiving academic advising as an undeclared student, exploring academic and career options, selecting a college major, and finally, implementing their degree in the world of work. All staff members are available to assist students in the completion of the general educations requirements needed for all majors. In addition, there may be staff members designated to give specific assistance and guidance to students who have selected a major, but may need help when their faculty advisor is not available (to be determined by the academic departments). The reformed unit will be under the leadership of one person. It will also be recommended that the leadership of this unit will coordinate the academic advising at the university as well, be either a well respected member of the faculty or a hire from a national search with faculty status.

The staff of the Academic and Career Planning Center will assist in:

As was done in the process for the creation of a mission statement for academic advising for the university, the task force voted for the following statement to guide the Academic and Career Planning Center. This statement was submitted by task force member Elizabeth Hicks. “The mission of the Academic and Career Planning Center (yet to be named) at Central Connecticut State University shall be to support exploratory (new and transitional) undergraduate students including full-time, part-time, transfer students as they establish, test, modify and implement integrated academic, career and life goals.”

Faculty Advising

It was made apparent that each of the four schools has a unique and somewhat effective plan for selecting, advising and following up with students in their majors. The most glaring need is for additional faculty support in each area, especially during peak advising times, orientation, as well as the winter and summer hours. Ways of utilizing the staff of the Academic and Career Planning Center to assist during these times led to numerous debates and discussion on the consistency and content of the information that students in each of the majors are to receive and when they are to receive it. Each of the schools has unique concerns and it should be determined by the dean of each school as to how they would interface with the Academic and Career Planning Center. However, it was determined that resources are needed to provide support for the units assigned to advise students in the major during peak times as well as winter and summer sessions and that this support should come from faculty within the schools. This support can also include training, evaluation and stipends as incentives for faculty assistance.

Recommendations / Next Steps

The task force submitted the final draft of the recommendations to Drs. Lovitt and Toston in December of 2007. The four points highlighted in the recommendations were:

In the spring semester of 2008 the task force developed a survey that asked questions to students based their understanding and campus experiences relating to the six goals and objectives that were presented previously. Following the survey a focus group with a diverse group of students of various majors, including successful and unsuccessful students, was conducted to address topics that emerged from the surveys and also hear their issues and advising experiences. These initiatives allowed the task force to test and evaluate our assumptions, intended goals, procedures and outcomes. The effort to improve the effectiveness and quality of service that we can provide to students in academic advising cannot be achieved unless the entire university embraces and supports the mission and understands their role in advising. The current culture and expectation that academic advising is only the issuing of student pin numbers and assistance in the selection of course will have to be changed. Beginning with the President of the university, academic advising will have to be a priority for his office and each division would have to know what part they play in servicing students under the six goals and objectives mentioned in this reformed advising plan.

The task force is currently in the initial phase of developing a plan for implementation.